KISS and Tell

Posted by on Sep 20, 2012 in Blog, Career Highlights | 5 Comments
Year: 2012 Event: Artwork Presentation

Year: 2012Event: Artwork Presentation 

Although all of our individual journeys thought life are unique, they are also very similar in that each is filled with happiness and sadness, satisfaction and disappointment. However, along the way sometimes our childhood dreams once thought far out of reach do come true. This is one of those times for me.

I remember the moment clearly when back in 1977 as an impressionable six year old, I saw a television commercial for KISS’s new album “Love Gun”. Like many kids at the time it did not even matter that they even made music. The images of those four characters in that beautifully painted album cover were like new found super heroes to me. At that moment I was hooked for life and have been a fan ever since, buying everything I could from records & bubble gum cards to halloween costumes.

As with everything I became passionate about as a child, I expressed myself the most natural and only way I knew how, thought my art. I drew countless pictures of those four faces, sometimes even quietly during church services when I was supposed to be listening to the sermon. Hey, at least I was quiet!

Although the band’s lineup has changed throughout the years, my passion and interest never did. I have enjoyed the ride though all the various evolutions of both their sound and image.

Like most KISS fans, as kids in the 1970’s and 80’s, I had to endure the “KISS sucks” attacks and I engaged in many arguments defending them. This is something that unites KISS fans like no other band and something I believe has helped them endure for almost 40 years now. It is like we know something they don’t or simply cannot understand. As the years have passed it is funny seeing how many of these same people have changed their opinions and finally give them the respect they have always deserved… well with the exception of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who still just do not get it. Of course there are those who still say “KISS sucks”.

As an adult I began to appreciate them for a variety of different reasons. I marvel at their ability to market themselves and keep a brand that is 40 years old a relevant money making machine. More importantly I appreciate their passion and commitment not only to the band but to their fans. We share the same approach to our respective art in that we both put all we have into everything we do. It is the basic philosophy that if you are going to do it, then you do it right.

There are three things I have learned as a professional. The first is when an opportunity comes you have to sieze it with an open mind and both hands because you never know where it is going to lead or when the next one will come.

The second thing is that you cannot always sit around and wait for opportunity. More often than not you have to create your own opportunities. This requires a lot of hard work and effort that often does not amount to anything but a nice portfolio piece, but every once in a while the reward is more than you imagine. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” as they say.

The third thing I have learned is very simple. The value and importance of networking. As they say “It’s all who you know”. This story, which results in my living out a childhood dream of meeting KISS is really an example of all three of those things.

I will save the back story of how I got myself into the KISS / Motley Crue show last night in Camden, NJ. That is where the “who you know” part comes in. Lets just say I have a friend who has a friend who is close with the band and I asked if there were any strings he could pull to get me close to the stage. Once my tickets were confirmed, I was told there may be an opportunity to get me back stage but there were no promises.

To date, all I have done in this new illustration technique I have continued to develop over the past five years now have been athletes. I have been wanting to try some musicians and more specifically KISS. I thought maybe if I had something to present to them as a gift, it might help push that backstage door open enough for me to get in.

The challenge here was how the hell could I possibly create something that would get their attention? After all, founding members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley have had people and fans painting their images for the last 35 years! What could I do that would possibly be any different or unique? Moreover it was a daunting thought to create four full body images of the band with all the detail and bling of the costumes that would be required to do it right. After all, I have paying work I have to get done first. I thought seriously about not doing anything at all till inspiration struck. The paint!

Instead of creating full body or in-action concert images, I decided to simply focus on the faces but instead of creating beautifully rendered portraits which they have seen countless times before, I would bring them to life by bringing the face paint itself to life by showing it dripping and running from their faces. The result even surprised myself and I thought at minimum, It is certainly different. I then worked them into the classic 1978 KISS solo album designs to add a bit of nostalgia to them.

I sent them along to my friend who forwarded them to their management. The door was officially open and my meet and greet confirmed.

I can’t tell you how nervous I was when I walked into the tent and saw the four members standing there in full costume. It is very intimidating. It is like meeting Batman! When it was my turn, I presented each one with their individual portrait. Of course they all seemed impressed and appreciative but to my amazement, Gene took a special interest.

He immediately looked at me and with a drawing motion of his hand and a bit of surprise in his voice asked “you did this?”. I told him yes and that I have been drawing pictures of them since I was six. He immediately held it up to his manager, the legendary Doc McGhee and asked with eyes widened “did you see this?” He then went on to tell Doc to get my contact information as he can see my artwork on T-Shirts, posters and more. Doc told me afterward that he also wanted copies hanging in their office.

All I can say is WOW. I do not know what if anything will come of it in the future but I could not have asked for a more amazing night. Simply meeting them was enough but to have Gene Simmons of all people who has seen so much throughout his long and successful career have that kind of reaction to my artwork and instantly see the value in it is such a validation of my vision and effort.

Looking forward to seeing what the future holds.

©2012 The Wilkinson Gallery.LLC

Kiss Monster by David E. Wilkinson



  1. Edgardo
    November 12, 2012

    Great man! I’d like to paint like you…at some point, I envy you (in a good way). Congratulations!

  2. davide
    November 13, 2012

    Thank you so much for the comment and compliments! Much appreciated. My only advice is to just keep drawing, painting and expressing yourself creatively in every way you can.

  3. Marc
    March 3, 2014

    What a great story, man! Hard work and believing in yourself pays off! An awesome idea and incredible talent doesn’t hurt either. Can’t wait for my Vinnie Vincent Giclee to arrive! Thanks for shipping it so quickly.

    • davide
      March 3, 2014

      Thank you very much for the comment and visiting my site. Please be sure to check out my Facebook page as well.

  4. Marc
    March 6, 2014

    Looks even better in person!


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